The Anguish and Vigilance of Things

by Richard Ali

The Will: An Introduction to The Anguish and Vigilance of Things


Imru al-Qais

The poet is a grey eminence always sitting at an angle to the market of affairs, making notes, seeing everything, entering into every nuance in intercourse. From these notes come the poems, things distilled. The job of the poet is to agitate words so they yield their true core as does wine, to induce in the reader what each word is nakedly, that is, pure mood.

In these poems, Richard Ali presents his life as a patient on a surgeon’s table and there are no, have been no themes, to his life, as these poems reveal. There have been only a series of glances, his eye resting on this or that, his poems becoming points of emphasis, seeking to undress and pare away adjective and lie alike. My son is not naked in these poems. But these poems are a testimony to what is laid naked. He is naked beneath these poems.

A poem is a thing in-formation. Form is important; a woman’s hips widen and keep safe what is hidden. Just as a glance is an irregular thing; there is no science to it, no mathematics to how it falls. In trying to capture an emphasis in terms of mood, as a poet must, the difficulty is finding a form for what is by nature elusive. It is as finding a spell strong and nimble enough to say—stay, stay still until my essence is found. Richard Ali has allowed each poem enter the form of its nature.

Each poem is a record of a man crashing himself into the fluid story of his times.

The poet is a grey eminence always at an angle to the stairs. Ours has been the endless vigilance of things and this is our testament.


562 AD.


From The Anguish and Vigilance of Things 

Making It Again

(From Songs of Innocence)


There’s no mistake in the paradise of children, all errings

Are erasable: We shred a year and sheepish say—it’s just numbers

Yet here I bleed the blue from yesterday’s clouds, put distemper

Into memory, leaving our tryst grounds in chaos


Empty playgrounds are lures when love is done,

Bud of grace quarter eaten by the price we pay

A slammed door – another’s name – wanderlust

Absence becomes the now place where the other lives alone


I invoke fever in the creaking of swings, thinking

Of Christ. But you’ve gone to the devil and He, creation

By creation, undoes the deeds of our Father’s amen

Leaving us as children, a mistaken affair erased.


At The Start of Winter

(From The Woman God)


There’s no joy in the music, new aridities

Encroach, dunes overcome our palace, remnants of

Walls will be ruins underfoot. This site is nostalgia

Sands to be scapelled off, or not, as anthropologia


Were we ever happy? I am not sad. There’s a blanket

Of chill around my heart which longs still for beating

Butterfly wings and the laughter before the confidence

That laughter could be done without. Were we not happy?


I remember that day at my house in the slums

When i tilted your head in my palms, saw revealed

Neat cornrows of black silk on soft yellow scalp

Before the trick of time turned winter on us.


Suite of Blue

(From Songs of Darkness)


Days pass by like shoelaces

Dragging along, gathering sand

And mud


Wynton Marsalis plays

I cannot hear him like I used to


A cat swings with popped out eyes,

Someone tells a joke, someone is mugged

Death walks alone, singular, sickled


I was never there, there are no prints

In the barrenness behind me, an orphaned

Seashell, thrust too far from claim of tide


I am not here, I am not. Where I used to be

Rows and rows of dead tulips weep in the sun.



The Sadness of Love

(From Songs of Darkness)


This house

On a special street, hides from

Indifferent eyes. Colour the yellow of

Endless sunshine, sturdy the bricks

Of my experience.


Each mood was built for someone

Who stayed awhile: balcony where she loved

To laze and watch the sun lower

As I to her thighs; room of palms and incense where

She stopped a clock against her heart

So we’d live forever; room of rainbows and umbrellas

For the lover who loved laughter

And Pablo Neruda;

Room the grey for the child that died.


Sun fails now, shadows curl the intimacy

Of rooms I cannot leave, of this house my heart

I cannot escape.


Blood now thin

Fades to rose. Alone I flame the candlewicks

Capture in verse the sadness of love.


About the Author:

Richard Ali Image (c) Tee Jay Dan.
Richard Ali Image (c) Tee Jay Dan.

Richard Ali is a Nigerian writer whose poems were first published in 2008. He has served in the National EXCO of the Association of Nigerian Authors and sits on the board of Uganda’s Babishai Niwe Poetry Foundation. A member of the Jalada Writers Cooperative based in Nairobi, his work has been published in African Writing, Jalada, Saraba Magazine and elsewhere. The Anguish and Vigilance of Things is his debut collection, due out in 2017. He practices Law in Abuja, Nigeria.

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